Shaan Shahid is undoubtedly one of the most talented and forward-thinking filmmakers we have in Pakistan. His films including Guns and Roses: Ik Junoon, Mujhe Chaand Chahye and Zille Shah were well received when they were released between 1999 and 2008. However, it seems that instead of moving forward, he has remained in the past and that’s why his latest film Zarrar suffers. Instead of handing over the writing duties to someone else, Shaan chose to pen the script himself which weakens a film loaded with quality action sequences, impressive VFX, and a plot that reminds the audience of Hollywood but fails to impress.
Zarrar (Shahid) is a secret agent who takes a break after his last case, and no one knows his whereabouts except his mentor retired Colonel Mustajab (Nadeem Baig). But when the Colonel gets to know about an international conspiracy to gain control of Pakistan’s Nuclear Program, he recalls Zarrar who does his best to stop the bad guys from achieving their goals. He befriends journalist Kiran and uses her to reveal the corrupt elements in society, but will he be able to save the country on time, that is the question.
For a Pakistani film, the action sequences are top notch as is the badass attitude of the main lead, who doesn’t waste time to kill his enemies. There was never any doubt about Shaan’s credentials as an action hero since he has been doing that for more than three decades now. Be it a gundasa in hand or a gun, Shaan does it best because he knows more about this stuff than others. By injecting politicians, media, and cross-border terrorism in his script, he has shown the way to other filmmakers who may have ideas but don’t know how to execute them.
Then there was Kiran Malik as the damsel in distress, who looked breathtakingly beautiful throughout the film. The one-take scene where she delivers a speech about her late father is proof enough that she is beautiful with brains, and can act better than many in the film industry. She can give any heroine from across the border a run for their money and needs to do more projects in the coming years.
However, the man who commands the respect of every Pakistani – Nadeem Baig – is the most likable person in the movie. He is Colonel Sam Trautman to Shaan’s John Rambo (the Hollywood one) who takes him under his wing when he seems to have lost the will to live. He is one of the finest actors we have around and we should utilize him more like Shaan did, otherwise he would fade away like his contemporaries.
It was great to see veteran TV actor Nisar Qadri in the film, however, he had a minor role that could have been elevated to a major one. As for the cinematography, and VFX, they are first-rate and it was because of these factors Zarrar makes it to the list of better action films in the country. One should be impressed because Shaan used Hollywood as a reference, instead of Bollywood, and if the fight scene in the elevator reminds you of the Sean Connery action scene in Diamonds are forever, or the Daredevil sequence in an alley, then that’s a step up for Pakistan.
The extremely bad editing and the worst dubbing are the biggest drawbacks of the film. Whatever the reasons, filmmakers might have gotten away with it in the 1980s or the 1990s, but that was before OTT platforms were available to them. Scenes, where the characters might have spoken English, were dubbed in Urdu, or vice versa, while there was no link between the scenes. In fact, the twist is bland, which wouldn’t have been the case had the other actor been relatable, and the film’s spoken language was Urdu, instead of Pakistani English.
As for the actors, it’s time for Shafqat Cheema to quit playing the bad guy because he is so 90s for today’s audience. Nayyar Ejaz needs to stop following the Shafqat Cheema way and do meaningful films instead of every film since he is a good actor. Newcomer Adnan Butt is also one of the producers of the film and while he has a menacing presence, his lack of acting skills didn’t help the film at all.
The Verdict 2.5/5
Out of Shaan’s last five films, three have been predominantly in English for no reason, and while Waar worked because it came at a time when people had no option, 021 and now Zarrar couldn’t work. For a director who knew that since his flick Arth would be hitting the screens in winter, and made his actors wear warm clothes, he didn’t give this film the same attention. It’s time Shaan started to take himself seriously as a filmmaker because that’s what his fans want. He may be the son of the greatest scriptwriter Pakistan produced but he should collaborate with others as a screenwriter for his next project and think beyond himself.
If there was another person associated with the script, Shaan would never have named the project he is undertaking and his character as Zarrar. He would have gone for another name for Kiran Malik’s character besides Kiran Malik or I6 for the Pakistani version of MI6, he would have been corrected had he walked through a metal detector after killing two men in the lobby, and wouldn’t have started the film with Pakistan-America relations, only to wage a war against England, for some reason. He needs to understand that the audience has evolved, and if they are paying for a Pakistani film, they want to see a film in a language they understand, and not something that is alien to them.